February 17, 2018

New York Post Finds High Library Pensions; Librarians Call It Anomaly

By Norman Oder

  • Two retirees have pensions near $200,000
  • Average pension: $19,000+
  • Most librarians collect modest sums

The tabloid New York Post, in an article Monday headlined LIBRARY RETIREES’ SERIOUS CA-SSSH, had fun pointing out that the seventh and ninth most generous pensions in New York state belong to recent retirees from the New York Public Library.

Priscilla Southon, who retired as senior VP for human resources in April 2008, has a pension of $188,846 a year. Mary Kay Conwell, who retired as director of branches in August 2004, has a pension of $184,498 a year.

Most pensions modest
That doesn’t mean, as the Post suggested, that “Being expert in the Dewey Decimal System really pays off.” After all, as one commenter on the newspaper’s web site noted, there’s a “great chasm” between top NYPL executives and frontline staffers, who may earn less than $40,000.

Another pointed out that if there are 1,128 people receiving city library pensions that total $21.6 million a year, the average is barely more than $19,000.

The pensions are administered by the New York State and Local Retirement System, explained NYPL spokesman Herb Scher. Pensions, which are determined on the same basis for union and management staff, are based on years in the system, final average salary, and age at retirement.

Facts Matter: Information Literacy for the Real World
Libraries and news organizations are joining forces in a variety of ways to promote news literacy, create innovative community programming, and help patrons/students identify misinformation. This online course will teach you how to partner with local news organizations to promote news literacy through a range of programs—including a citizen journalism hub at your library.